The Perfect Burger


  • 3 pounds ground chuck (15 percent fat or higher) or beef brisket, coarsely ground as for chili
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 onion rolls or soft hamburger rolls
  • Favorite cheese, such as crumbled blue or goat cheese or slices of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 leaves iceberg or lettuce leaves or cups
  • 6 thick slices tomato
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large yellow or Maui onions, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • Favorite condiments, such as ketchup, mustard and pickle relish


  1. Gently shape the burger meat into 6 thick patties with an indentation in the center of each one. Refrigerate until it’s time to grill.
  2. Prepare a barbecue for medium-high heat grilling. Just before grilling, season the patties with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers for 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, and then flip over and cook for 4 to 6 minutes on the other side for medium rare or until desired doneness. (If topping with cheese, add it a couple of minutes before the burgers are done so the cheese can melt.) Grill the buns.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-aluminum casserole over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, or until well softened. Stir frequently.
  4. Add the wine, balsamic vinegar and sugar to the onions and simmer on low heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. The onions should be very tender and caramelized. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning
  5. To serve, place the burgers on toasted buns and top each burger with a tablespoon of caramelized onions. Place the lettuce and tomato on top, and finish with the top of the bun. Serve immediately. Arrange the condiments in a shallow basket to serve.


  • Figure about a half-pound per burger, and handle the meat lightly so it will be juicy. If the meat becomes very compact, the burger might resemble the texture of meatloaf more than a moist burger.
  • I put an indentation into the middle of each patty so that the final hamburger ends up flat rather than round.
  • It is also helpful if you are putting cheese on top. Just before cooking, sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Make sure the fire is medium-high heat, and not too high, because you can end up with a charred, but raw, burger. Turn the burgers after 3 to 4 minutes and not until they release easily from the grill — a sign they are ready to be turned. How long you cook them is up to you. While the burgers are finishing, place the roll halves on the grill to warm them and give them light grill marks.

Makes 6 servings.

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